There isn't much more on-field adversity Devante Brooks could face as he wraps up his senior season of high school. The Scout three-star tight end is coming off his second ACL tear in as many years — a gloomy prospect that could break most high school athletes with a road to recovery paved by patience, perseverance and near-constant rehabilitation.
But Brooks has been down this road before. After all, this is the second time he's had to tackle extensive physical therapy while strengthening his legs and basically starting from scratch. The Tennessee commit hasn't been discouraged by any of it. Instead, he views it as a minor setback for a major comeback.
"Obviously it takes a lot of commitment," Brooks told InsideTennessee. "You have to make sure you stay on top of it at all times and do your home exercises, make sure you always set some [physical therapy] time aside. It can get quite repetitive at first. They make you do the leg raises and all that, calf stretches and stuff like that, just basic things until you can get to the more intense things to where you feel like you're really progressing in your rehab. Just mentally, you've got to stay strong so you don't slack off."
The mental aspect of his rehabiliation was almost as grueling as the physical portion, and Brooks has gotten to the point now where he can actively push his legs more than ever before as he prepares to enroll at Tennessee and get treatment from its staff.
"I'm in the stage now where I can be more aggressive with the ACL," Brooks said. "I can push it a lot further. I can start running outside a lot more. That's really something that now I'm able to do. They're letting me off the hook a little bit so I can be more intense in the rehab. Of course, I'm still being cautious, though."
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound St. Johns (Washington D.C.) standout will also get the opportunity to meet with new tight ends coach Larry Scott when he takes a visit to Tennessee for a major recruiting weekend the school is putting on Jan. 29-31.
"I actually had not heard about him until coaches started talking about him," Brooks said. "I watched some of his videos. He's a very energetic guy. I got to talk to him twice. He seems like he believes in the same qualities that I do about family, integrity, intensity, things like that. He seems like a great guy. I can't wait to meet him in person."
That weekend is pivotal to the coaching staff as it hosts some of its most coveted targets sprinkled in with a few hard commitments like Brooks and Scout four-star quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who have already started a budding friendship they hope to continue as they prepare to join the Vols this year.
"We don't see each other at all so it's not as close as we all hope, but we all do talk in a group chat regularly," Brooks told IT of his friendship with Tennessee commits. "We try and stay in contact regularly. We've definitely already built that starting relationship moving into the whole brotherhood thing that goes on in college football. Definitely we've found a basis of our relationship and we're definitely building on it every day."
Brooks' diverse skill set that couples soft hands with a tenacious run blocking technique will help him as he learns under Scott's tutelage.
"I believe it's just my overall athleticism, my intensity and the ability for me to go out and catch passes, but also be that run blocker that the team needs," Brooks said. "When we need to run the ball, I can block. I can spread out the attack and it really gives the defense a hard time trying to cover me."
The senior got a chance to watch the Outback Bowl Jan. 1 and was impressed with how involved the tight ends were in the Vols' 45-6 beatdown of No. 13 Northwestern. It's one of the many reasons why Brooks chose Tennessee, and continues to work every day to ensure he'll be able to run out of the Power T with the team in September.
"The tight ends got a lot of love during that bowl game," Brooks told IT. "That stuck out to me the most. On one of my visits I talked to coach DeBord. He told me tight ends are a big part of his offense. That's something I love to hear and I can't wait to be a part of it."